Three hundred and forty-nine cases of accidental drowning or cooling in water occurring in Denmark from 1989 to 1993 have been studied. The incidence was highest in 0-4-year-old children, in middle-aged men, and in old people. A third of the children drowned in private pools. A quarter of all fatalities occurred during leisure boating. At least half of those that drowned in this way did not wear a life-jacket and could have been saved if they had been wearing one. Between a third and a half of the adult drownings were related to alcohol intake, and a large number of inebriated men fell into harbour basins and other water bodies. A few final remarks are made on the prospects for preventing accidental drowning in children, elderly people and adult males.